Until I became a grandmother two-plus years ago, I never fully understood the joy this stage in life would bring. There is nothing quite like being a grandparent. To watch your own child parent his/her son or daughter, to feel that connection of generations is to experience a new type of love.
Along with that love comes responsibility. Not the same type of day-to-day responsibility you hold as a parent. But still the responsibility of Christian grandparenting. Every time I’m with my two-year-old granddaughter, I am cognizant that she is watching, listening, learning from me. As her vocabulary grows, I’ve observed her watching my mouth move, shaping letters into words. I’ve observed that my actions and reactions, too, affect her behavior.
As she grows, Isabelle will observe me in other ways. How I live, how I speak, how I handle situations, how I treat others—all certainly will be out there for my granddaughter to see. So I have the responsibility to model Christ-like behavior.
What does that mean, especially to a toddler? Even a child that young can understand kindness and gratitude. I can reinforce the “please” and “thank you” she is already learning from her parents. I can teach her to take turns, to understand that she doesn’t always get her way, to wait.
But beyond those basics, I can leave a legacy of faith for my sweet granddaughter through table and bed-time prayers, reading bible stories and taking her to worship services. Her parents are already doing all three with her. I can reinforce those as her mind, body and spirit grow. As a grandmother, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations” (Psalm 89:1).
Perhaps you are at a different stage in grandparenting. Maybe your grandchild is a teen not all that excited about spending time with you. Even if overnight stays or afternoons at the playground have long ended, you are no less important. You still have that opportunity to be involved. Take an interest in your grandchild’s interests. Embrace technology as a way to stay connected. Teach your grandchild a craft, a skill, an appreciation for the arts. Volunteer together. Be there.
Not all families live near each other. I am fortunate in that my granddaughter lives within an hour’s drive. I see her frequently, but not so often that I intrude on my daughter and son-in-law’s family time. I try to respect that. But if I suggest some Izzy time, they are usually receptive. Her other grandparents live nearly 2,000 miles away in California. They connect weekly via technology and visit Minnesota several times a year with my daughter and her family also traveling west. For now it works. I try to include Izzy’s other grandparents in conversations so she feels their love even in their absence.
No matter where your grandchild lives—near or far—one important aspect of grandparenting is unaffected by distance. That is prayer. We can pray daily for our grandchildren, whether yet unborn, a preemie in a NICU, a three-year-old starting preschool, a middle schooler dealing with peer pressure, a teen leaving for college and beyond. All need our frequent prayers.
As I grow into my role as a grandma, I am ever thankful for the blessing of Isabelle. Through my granddaughter’s eyes, I see the world from a perspective that centers on simple joys. She giggles at squirrels racing along a branch. She thrills in seeing a school bus. And, when she asks for one more book to be read, she knows that Grandma will have a tough time saying no. I understand the importance of building a loving relationship with hugs and kisses and more books. But I also understand the importance of leaving a legacy of faith, passing along my love of Jesus to my granddaughter.
About the author:
Audrey Kletscher Helbling fully embraces her role as a grandmother. She delights, especially, in reading some of the same books to Izzy as she read to her daughter decades ago.